'Oh, you're here, are you, sir?' said John, rather surprised by the quickness with which he appeared. 'Take this here valuable animal into the stable, and have more than particular care of him if you want to keep your place. A mortal lazy fellow, sir; he needs a deal of looking after.'
'But you have a son,' returned Mr Chester, giving his bridle to Hugh as he dismounted, and acknowledging his salute by a careless motion of his hand towards his hat. 'Why don't you make HIM useful?'
'Why, the truth is, sir,' replied John with great importance, 'that my son--what, you're a-listening are you, villain?'
'Who's listening?' returned Hugh angrily. 'A treat, indeed, to hear YOU speak! Would you have me take him in till he's cool?'
'Walk him up and down further off then, sir,' cried old John, 'and when you see me and a noble gentleman entertaining ourselves with talk, keep your distance. If you don't know your distance, sir,' added Mr Willet, after an enormously long pause, during which he fixed his great dull eyes on Hugh, and waited with exemplary patience for any little property in the way of ideas that might come to him, 'we'll find a way to teach you, pretty soon.'
Hugh shrugged his shoulders scornfully, and in his reckless swaggering way, crossed to the other side of the little green, and there, with the bridle slung loosely over his shoulder, led the horse to and fro, glancing at his master every now and then from under his bushy eyebrows, with as sinister an aspect as one would desire to see.
Mr Chester, who, without appearing to do so, had eyed him attentively during this brief dispute, stepped into the porch, and turning abruptly to Mr Willet, said,
'You keep strange servants, John.'
'Strange enough to look at, sir, certainly,' answered the host; 'but out of doors; for horses, dogs, and the likes of that; there an't a better man in England than is that Maypole Hugh yonder. He an't fit for indoors,' added Mr Willet, with the confidential air of a man who felt his own superior nature. 'I do that; but if that chap had only a little imagination, sir--'
'He's an active fellow now, I dare swear,' said Mr Chester, in a musing tone, which seemed to suggest that he would have said the same had there been nobody to hear him.
'Active, sir!' retorted John, with quite an expression in his face; 'that chap! Hallo there! You, sir! Bring that horse here, and go and hang my wig on the weathercock, to show this gentleman whether you're one of the lively sort or not.'
Hugh made no answer, but throwing the bridle to his master, and snatching his wig from his head, in a manner so unceremonious and hasty that the action discomposed Mr Willet not a little, though performed at his own special desire, climbed nimbly to the very summit of the maypole before the house, and hanging the wig upon the weathercock, sent it twirling round like a roasting jack. Having achieved this performance, he cast it on the ground, and sliding down the pole with inconceivable rapidity, alighted on his feet almost as soon as it had touched the earth.
'There, sir,' said John, relapsing into his usual stolid state, 'you won't see that at many houses, besides the Maypole, where there's good accommodation for man and beast--nor that neither, though that with him is nothing.'
This last remark bore reference to his vaulting on horseback, as upon Mr Chester's first visit, and quickly disappearing by the stable gate.
'That with him is nothing,' repeated Mr Willet, brushing his wig with his wrist, and inwardly resolving to distribute a small charge for dust and damage to that article of dress, through the various items of his guest's bill; 'he'll get out of a'most any winder in the house. There never was such a chap for flinging himself about and never hurting his bones. It's my opinion, sir, that it's pretty nearly allowing to his not having any imagination; and that if imagination could be (which it can't) knocked into him, he'd never be able to do it any more. But we was a-talking, sir, about my son.'
'True, Willet, true,' said his visitor, turning again towards the landlord with his accustomed serenity of face.